The following article contains spoilers for Aoashi Episode 9 “A Broader Soccer,” now streaming on Crunchyroll.
Ashito experienced a rude awakening in Epsiode 8 of Aoashi when he realized just how far ahead his teammates are in terms of skill level. It’s not just that they’re better than him; he’s actually not great at playing real soccer at all, struggling to understand even the most fundamental techniques. It’s not surprising, considering his teammates on his middle school team did nothing but pass him the ball so he could score goals.
Before Esperion, being “good” at soccer for Ashito was essentially about how many goals he could score. Now, for the first time, he’s realizing just how complicated the sport truly is. It’s impressive that he managed to get accepted into an elite soccer club despite his mediocre skills. Ashito started having late night training sessions by himself, which did not amount to much besides exhaustion during regular training. He was advised to ask Togashi for help, which he did not, but Togashi offered to help anyway.
As Aoashi Episode 9 begins, Togashi is immediately frustrated. He has to repeat the same things over and over again, but Ashito can’t understand what he’s being told to do or why he’s being told do it. Ashito says Togashi’s advice is too abstract, meaning he should be more specific. This reminds Togashi of when he was in fifth grade and first met Coach Fukuda.
Fukuda was impressed by Togashi’s soccer talent, so he watched him practice by himself for 15 minutes and taught him some techniques. He knew the right words to use for Togashi to understand, but Togashi wanted to be told exactly what to do. Basically, he was asking for the same thing that Ashito is now. Fukuda refused to give him all the answers, though. Instead, he told him that if he figures it out on his own, he’ll never forget it.
Togashi took Fukuda’s advice, figured it out on his own and continued practicing over and over again. Hearing Togashi’s story strikes a chord with Ashito and motivates him to do the same. Ohtomo and Tachibana surprise Ashito by showing up to help him train, despite his previous attempt to avoid that for their sake. At the next team training session, Ashito shows off the results of his extra training.
Ashito finally starts showing improvement and is beginning to understand aspects of soccer he’d never considered before. His teammates and coaches, including Nozomi, are impressed by the change. Nozomi even subtly smiles as he notices Ashito accomplished the task that was set for him. This is interesting because Nozomi seemed to be Ashito’s biggest doubter, yet he doesn’t mind giving him advice and smiles when he improves.
Ashito is proud of himself and excited that he’s gaining a broader view on soccer. His feeling of triumph is short-lived, however; at the next session, he and his team start training regularly with the A team. Coach Fukuda has the B team play a match against the A team, but with a twist: the B team plays with the normal 11 players, against 21 on the A team. Needless to say, it’s a disaster for the B team. Fukuda quickly switches the amount of players on the teams – but the B team still can’t keep up.
Akutsu smugly tells Ashito that even in an 11-on-21, the shorthanded team can still make good plays, and it’s easy when it’s against players like him who know almost nothing about soccer. That makes sense, and it’s a testament to how much better the A team is right now. Toward the end of Aoashi Episode 9, Ashito tries to prevent his team from getting overwhelmed by telling them to just play their regular soccer, which Asari suggested earlier. This gets them going, but something curious happens.
Asari and Kuroda in particular seem to have an understanding of what they need to do, and they assume Ashito does too. Of course, the latter has no idea what they’re trying to do when they attempt to involve him. These results in Ashito making a mistake that’s clear to everyone else, but he’s unable to figure out what it is. Asari and Kuroda are both angry at him, while he’s completely puzzled. As the match ends, Nozomi tells Ashito that his next assignment is to figure out why out of all 21 players on his team, those two specifically got mad.